Mortgage cheaper than rent for FirstHome family

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2014
Haley and Oliver Smith
ROBERT KITCHIN/Fairfax NZ

FIRST STEP ON THE LADDER: Haley and Oliver Smith, with Rori, 7, left, Alicia, 8, and Indie, 2, outside their new home in Levin, a former state house bought through the FirstHome scheme. ‘‘We’re able to actually have a life now and start to live a bit.’’

Ex-State house, new beginnings

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Old state houses in Levin are providing the first chance to own a home for young families.

Haley and Oliver Smith are chuffed with their new house in the Horowhenua town, bought through a Government scheme launched late last year.

They will settle on the former Housing New Zealand property today, and can't wait to begin repainting and sprucing it up over the long weekend.

With four children - Mr Smith's son Zak, 10, and daughters Alicia, 8, and Rori, 7, and the couple's daughter Indie, 2 - they are relishing the chance to get on the housing ladder.

They found the house through the FirstHome scheme, offering ex-state houses for first-home buyers in provincial towns, and are among the first 25 families to benefit.

"We were living in Raumati Beach and the rent was starting to get a bit high," Mrs Smith said. "We made the decision to move in with my parents and the kids while saving for a deposit. When [the loan-to-value restrictions] came in, it was now or never."

The FirstHome scheme will release up to 400 homes over three years. Ninety-nine homes were available in the first block.

A friend told the Smiths about the scheme and they bought their new place for $105,000.

At a mortgage rate of $112 a week, the Smiths are paying far less than they were in rent. "We're able to actually have a life now and start to live a bit," Mrs Smith said.

The Government contributes up to $20,000 for eligible families - those with a single income of $53,000 or less, or combined income of under $80,000. It is first-come first-served once a family has approval to join.

"We're happy to be here for the next three years [at least] - that's part of the scheme," Mrs Smith said. "We need to settle."

They see the house as an investment - it is a blank canvas they can refurbish and enhance.

Eventually, they would like to move back to Kapiti, but want to get settled and enjoy life as homeowners.

"We want to explore what Levin has got to offer," Mr Smith said. "I've lived most of my life in Kapiti, so it's a bit of a culture shock here."

They have already been on a "park crawl" with the girls, and Zak is looking forward to hunting with his grandfather in the Tararua Range.

Four similar houses in Levin have been sold - three completed, one other about to settle. Three more have sold in neighbouring Foxton.

TWO MORE EX-STATE HOUSES ON LIST

Levin real estate agent Roz Wallace arranged the Smiths' $105,000 FirstHome buy and has two more former state houses available in the town. This three-bedroom property on a 701-square-metre section in Maire St could sell for $95,000.

"You need to meet a few criteria," she said. "You need to go to the bank to get approval for finance subject to a Housing New Zealand loan of 10 per cent. Then they get a letter of approval from Housing New Zealand and then it's first in first served."

Prices are not negotiable, and families must live in the homes for at least three years. Approval is not for a particular house, so if more become available through the scheme, families who had already got approval could go for them, she said.

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